Capitol Beat OK

AFP-Oklahoma lists 2011 policy goals

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 30-Dec-2010

To start the New Year, Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma has listed a wide range of policy goals designed to “keep Oklahoma competitive.” In a press release asserting the group was working to boost “prosperity in the Sooner State,” AFP-Oklahoma detailed the multi-issue conservative agenda Stuart Jolly and his staff will work to promote.

In the release sent to CapitolBeatOK, the organization contended, “Oklahoma taxpayers spoke loud and clear last month against big government agendas of higher taxes and excessive government regulations.” The group’s objectives are intended “to rein in spending and give taxpayers greater control over the growing size of government.”

In an interview on “New Year’s eve eve” (December 30), the AFP state director told CapitolBeatOK, “Fiscal responsibility should be front and center. The people of Oklahoma demand a pro-growth policy agenda.”

He continued, “AFP-Oklahoma’s more than 22,351 activists are committed to programs that promote self-reliance and minimize the role of government in our lives and our livelihoods. We need policies that empower small business and job creation- rather than failed bailout programs that are wasting taxpayer dollars. Our message is clear: Focus.”

According to Jolly, that “focus” – presented in bullet form – should include:

* Comprehensive Tax Reform
- Reduce/eliminate income tax – and increase revenues
- Eliminate Transferable Tax Credits – they don’t work
- Eliminate Franchise Tax – compliance too burdensome when combined with the oppressive 6% state corporate tax

* School Choice for all Oklahoma students
- Build on 2010’s special needs school choice bill
- Better schools: A product of parents making decisions that are right for their own kids
- Competition among schools is good – School Choice helps create competition

* Pension Reform
- Oklahoma has over $16 billion in unfunded liabilities
- Imperative to move state to defined-contribution system
- Create portable benefits for younger participants

* Education Spending and Administrative Burden
- Direct money to the classroom where it belongs
- Lower “Administration Costs” from the 530+ school districts
- Properly prioritize education dollars now

* Workers’ Compensation Reform
- Simplify WC laws to enable employers to seek alternative WC coverage
- Create a system that works for workers – not lawyers
- Restructure OK WC system from a “court system” to an “administrative system”

* Property Tax Reform
- Cap property tax rates now – 5% is too high
- Freeze property taxes for seniors, regardless of income
- Encourage OK citizens to stay in Oklahoma – lower property taxes now

* Legal / Tort Reform
- Create environment that invites business into Oklahoma – not one that forces doctors and businesses to leave
- Implement Texas-style legal reforms that have been shown to work
- Tweak existing reforms – we’re on the right track

* Smaller, More Limited State Government
- Reduce agencies, boards and commissions by combining duplicative functions
- Streamline technology functions across agencies
- Combine, reduce, and eliminate smaller school districts (not schools, but the administration)

* Expose & End the practice of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyists
- Require state agencies to disclose how much they pay lobbyists w/taxpayer dollars
- Using taxpayer’s dollars to hire contract lobbyists to go back to the capitol to lobby for more tax dollars is wrong
- Transparency is required…demanded

* Budget Reforms / Spending Limits
- Rein in overall state spending to reflect fiscal responsibility
- Craft state budget that focuses on the core responsibilities of state government

In a discussion of technical aspects of policy communications, Jolly said his group uses “mainly email” to communicate with members, including regular alerts on timely or “breaking” issues. The group also has a robust Facebook presence, and utilizes traditional “snail mail” for some of its membership.

AFP deems itself “a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans.”